Emma Shuford ’22
Mercersburg Academy fall sports teams started participating in away contests for the first time in two years this fall. Due to COVID-19, teams were unable to compete against other schools for much of the 2020-2021 school year. This past weekend, students played against The Hun School of Princeton, a long-time rival in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). These first away games since the pandemic’s beginning were a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience for Blue Storm athletes
On September 18, girls varsity tennis, varsity field hockey, and boys and girls varsity soccer teams all traveled to Hun. Leaving as early as 7:30 am and returning as late as 8 pm, it was an all-day excursion.
Assistant cross country coach Rachel Mallory said, “The general COVID restrictions for athletics involve a COVID test the day before travel and competition, masking up during travel and until game play begins.” Besides COVID tests and masks, coaches and players agree that the restrictions are not wildly different from pre-COVID games. Peter Kallin, head boys varsity soccer coach, said, “They are pretty similar, but the biggest difference is traveling with masks on the bus. Depending on where we go—New Jersey, Maryland or Pennsylvania—the arrival instructions might be different pending the local rules.”
Monique Garcia ’22, a cross country captain, said, “I think most players and coaches are feeling pretty optimistic about these changes, especially compared to last year where we weren’t able to get off campus at all to compete. It’s a huge step that we are going off campus at all.” In other words, students and faculty are excited just to compete.
Head girls soccer coach Kristen Pixler said, “I think the one area we feel the most change is the welcoming of the team and traditions after the matches. We are careful about social distancing and masking when we are interacting with refs and rival teams even outside. Our lovely tradition of shaking hands and high fives after the matches has evolved into a healthier wave and cheer. Dr. Fauci would be proud.” Such post-game traditions, a large part of the culture and sportsmanship of competitive games, have been altered significantly for safety reasons.
Bus rides with teammates to away games and competitive games always foster excitement among Mercersburg athletes. This experience also has changed in the past two years. Soccer player Maddy Stang ’22 said, “There is kind of a damper on excitement just because people aren’t used to going to the games, or can’t, so the crowd isn’t as exciting. But getting to play is still fun.” For the most part, however, students and coaches are feeling the same old excitement. Soccer player Ben Rihn ’21 said, “I do think, however, that the excitement to be traveling outside campus has remained constant, if not escalated as a result of the pandemic. We are by no means rounding the corner. But advancements every day allow blue storm athletes to take off their masks during a match and play their hearts out until the clock strikes zero.”
Hopefully, the Blue Storm will continue to persevere through the challenges posed by the pandemic. And, despite a rocky beginning against Hun—field hockey lost 0-8, girls varsity soccer 0-6, boys varsity soccer 2-6, and tennis 3-4—the Blue Storm will continue to revive its tradition of excitement and sportsmanship.